Mile End's Beverage Director Picks The Best Fall Beers | Tasting

Mile End's beverage director picks his favorite fall beers

Mile End Deli in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, has long been a haven for Québécois expats looking to satisfy their fixes for hearty poutine and rich Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches. Over the last year or so, it's also become a destination for craft-beer nerds, too, thanks to the restaurant's bold selection of esoteric saisons, sours and smoked beers.

The beer focus is due, in large part, to the addition of Chris Balla, who sharpened his beer knowledge as a manager at Park Slope's venerable Bierkraft as beverage director. We sat down with Balla to see how (and why) he put together such an unexpected collection of beers from Quebec, Colorado, Switzerland and beyond.

Chris Balla

"I'm always excited about the first changes in the weather in September," says Balla, who organizes his list by price and features only bottles and cans (no drafts). "I find myself wanting beers I haven't tasted in months—stouts, porters, old ales and barrel-aged beers. I tend to favor rustic, wild ales, and I like to explore how they work with food. Most of all, I want to present the beers in a way that isn't scary for our customers."

Here are five of Balla's autumnal favorites from Mile End's current bottle list.

Hopfenstark Boson de Higgs

"Hopfenstark is one of the best saison producers in the world, and they happen to be from near Montreal. Their Boson de Higgs hits all the points I'm looking for in a beer: It's a little bit tart, which I think is excellent for heavier foods; it has a bit of smoke, too, which echoes our house-smoked meats; and it's also low alcohol, which, when you're looking for a happy medium between drinking and eating, is the way to go." $24 for a 750-milliliter bottle

Le Trou du Diable Saison du Tracteur

"This is another beer from the Montreal area. They're a very small brewery focusing mostly on farmhouse ales. This one is a new-wave saison with some tropical characters that intersect with the funky yeast to create interesting flavors. There's also some excellent carbonation on this as well, a head that stays forever." $19 for a 600-milliliter bottle

Trois Dames L'Amoureuse Rouge

"I'm really excited about Trois Dames from Switzerland because they do things that nobody else does. For instance, 20 percent of the fermentable liquid in this beer is red wine must from the Jura region of Switzerland, right on the border of France. So it's a strange saison-wine hybrid with a pink hue and tons of funk. We have a very small wine program at Mile End with exclusively natural wines, and I think this beer is in line with that style, too." $13 for a 12-ounce bottle

Picobrouwerij Alvinne Sigma

"This one's cool because it's aged in stainless steel instead of wood with whole-cone noble hops. It's very dark, acidic and amazingly complex—exactly the type of beer I like to have with smoked meat because it's very rich and full-bodied but also has some tartness to it. You get these musty, leathery notes that I think are so unique and perfect for animal protein." $11 for a 12-ounce bottle

The Monarchy Grodziskie

"The Monarchy is a new brewery that focuses on historical styles. Their Grodziskie is a Prussian-style beer, similar to a German Grätzer. It's a little bit hoppy, light-bodied and very cracker-y with an awesome smoke character. It's made with willow bark, which is a traditional ingredient that adds a little bit of bitterness and really dries out the beer. It's perfect with our hot dog, which is smoked, so it's got a little bit of a kielbasa thing going on." $8 for a 12-ounce bottle